Quest For The Witch Chapter Six
Chapter Six Practice and Battle
It was night when the noise began. The chief of the village offered Alexandra and Caesar lodging, to which Gwendolyn accepted without hesitation. Each of the three got their own room. And before each went to turn in for the night, the chief gave warning of what to expect in the night.
At the moment, Alexandra, in a borrowed sleeping robe/dress was lying on her back, staring at the ceiling, trying hard to ignore the scraping, sniffing, and low growls outside her window. As she was on the second floor of her host's home, she wondered just how big these creatures were. Of course, they cannot get in. Thanks to the architectural magic of the houses and cabins, the people were safe from the creatures so long as they do not open the doors for anything in the night. But because of the noise outside, she found it extremely difficult to find sleep. No methods of blocking out the noise seem to work, not even the magical spells of silence that banish all sounds. That just showed just how powerful the adversary was.
When morning finally came, the chief's granddaughter came to wake her hope. She was startled to find Alexandra in such disarray. Having experienced the noise the intrusive creatures make night after night for years, the chief's granddaughter had come used to it.
"You look terrible!" the granddaughter said, which was more of an understatement. Alexandra's eyes were sunken with deep-set shadow rings. The bags beneath her eyes were extremely visible, and she had pillow head, though that was not due to the lack of sleep. For Alexandra, it was a chore making her hair neat morning after morning which always became unruly after a night's sleep.
Alexandra wanted to sleep some more, but she knew she had to get up. Training and practice were to be immediate for the ritual that was to be a success. There would only be four days of practice before the full moon, always with the full moon when it came to magic, and Alexandra was a terrible dancer at best. Gwendolyn was going to help her in some way to make the dancing more decent, but it would still take effort and practice to really make it shine.
After getting dressed and prepping to be as presentable as possible, Alexandra followed Misha, the chief's granddaughter, to the main dining room where the others were already waiting. Caesar was just as terrible, if not more so, than Alexandra was. The color was drained from his face, but his eyes sparkled with excitement as he would be honing his sword skills with elves and experienced adventurers for the coming battle against the creatures of dark magic.
Caesar was trained in the sword by Christopher Henry, captain of their town's guard since Caesar and Alexandra were children. Of course, Christopher was only infantry during his days in the army, and he had not had a promotion throughout his military career. That was probably the reason why he retired to lead the town's guard.
Gwendolyn was the most rested of the dining room's occupants and she was cheerfully helping herself to some tea. Her plate was empty, but that was due to her refusing food. As she was a spirit, she didn't need to eat to begin with, and the villagers' needs were greater than her own comfort.
When breakfast was over, Alexandra was led away to a house just a few meters from the center cabin. While on their way there, Alexandra noticed how many of the villagers were more armed. Many were practicing sword swings and spear thrusts. The gunman who questioned her the other day was sitting on the porch of a cabin, cleaning his bolt shooters and examining his stamina stone for any cracks.
Stamina stones feed off of the stamina of the wielder and can vary in the amount of energy available depending on both will and actual stamina. When the hammer of the shooter hits where the stone will be contained, a bolt of energy built up from the wielder would shoot out as ammunition.
The gunman looked up from his work, tipped his hat in greeting when he saw Alexandra, and then went back to work. Alexandra could still see the doubt in his eyes, despite having the support of Gwendolyn.
"Right this way, Gwendolyn," said Misha. Alexandra was confused for a moment, then remembered that she had inherited Gwendolyn's name. In that affect, she was Gwendolyn now, not Alexandra.
Some time after Misha and Alexandra went off to practice dancing, Caesar emerged from the chief's house, slightly more energized after a fitful breakfast.
As he was on his way to find a spot to practice his sword swings (he needed to be at the top of his game if he was to be of any help to Alexandra when it came time to perform the ritual), he happened across the gunman who was glaring intently at a row of useless tin, lined up perfectly on a table. The gunman was surrounded by some of the villagers who had some time on their hands and wanted to see what was going to happen. In rapid succession, the gunman fired his weapon. Pulses of blue light zipped toward the row of tins, all hitting their mark and sending the tins flying high into the air before showering behind the table they once stood.
"Whoa!" Caesar exclaimed. He had never seen such expert marksmanship before. And gunman's speed was great.
The gunman grinned with pride of his skills and basked in the applause.
"That was impressive."
Caesar nearly jumped out of his skin. Since when was Gwendolyn behind him and why was she carrying two wooden swords with leather-wrapped grip?
As if in answer to his question, Gwendolyn gave one wood sword to Caesar, then tossed the other to the gunman.
"Think you can teach him a thing or two about swords?" the witch asked the gunman.
The gunman shrugged. Caesar stared incredulously at the sword in his hand, then glanced doubtfully to the gunman. Noticing Caesar's doubt, the gunman scowled.
"What?" he said. "Just 'cause I use bolt shooters don't mean I don't know how to use a blade."
As if to prove his point, he assumed standard military sword form and hacked at empty air. The wood whistled in the wind as it constantly blurred around the gunman. He could be a match for Caesar's former instructor. Then he suddenly lashed out at Caesar. Caesar just barely managed to dive to the side to avoid being brained.
"Kid's got good reflexes," the gunman said with a nod. Caesar glared at him. "But I ain't going to do this for free, not even for you, Immortal Witch."
Gwendolyn shrugged. "We can talk about that later. Money's not going to be good if we can't go out and spend it."
"Words from the wise," the gunman replied.
And it was with that, that Caesar found himself a new sword tutor. But because it all happened so fast, his brain wasn't able to process what was going on and by the time it finally clicked, it was already too late and training was almost over. The result of which he ended up lying in bed, groaning in pain with bruises all over. The gunman could easily have been some omnipotent warrior.
The next couple of days continued without incident. From morning to night, Caesar and Alexandra practiced and trained for their respective responsibilities. Every night they would come back dead tired and bruised. But each of them were just starting to barely get the hang of it all. It was only a few days so there was no way they could become pros in such a short amount of time, even with Gwendolyn's magic feeding their skills.
Because of how busy preparations were, Alexandra and Caesar never had time to sit around and chat for a bit. And when it was time to rest, they were to tired to do anything.
After some grueling days, it was finally time for the ritual to commence. Everyone was resting for the day, even Gwendolyn who had really not done anything except catch up with her old friend the elderly chief. For once, no one went home before sunset arrived. All were gathered at the center of the village with the exception of the village's proud warriors and the volunteer fighters. Among the armor-clad men and the sword-and-dagger wielding women were Caesar and the gunman standing side by side, sword and bolt shooter ready. The gunman was waiting in anticipation of a good fight. It had been a while since he'd been in one, and being of the old-fashioned masculine sort, he was itching for it all to begin. Caesar, a kind of direct opposite, was nervous and fearful for his life. But more than that, he was fearful for Alexandra's life. She was more important to him than he would like to admit to even his closest confidant, which, in this case, happened to also be Alexandra. Resolute, he tightened his grip on the sword that Gwendolyn had given him and prepared himself for the worse.
Gwendolyn sat on the roof, watching as the sky turned yellow and then dark blue. She was in her adult form, but her eyes were feline, and she had fangs. The tip of her hat began to glow emerald, a sign that her powers were being manifested to their maximum potential.
Once the sun's light was extinguished wind howled loudly like the moaning of a thousand suffering spirits. Dark magic often gave rise to beasts and monsters, creatures of distorted nature. They came as streaks of shadow, but upon closer inspection it was clear they were beasts, shaped like wolves but bore the bodies of bears. Their arms were ape-like, and they had four glowing red eyes. Where dark magic infected, the form it takes is unique to the environment. A pack of these creatures was just the form the dark magic was made to appear in this area where nature was deeply revered. Seeing the creatures that roamed the village at night for the first time, whatever bravery Caesar had mustered was drained away and replaced with raw fright.
The gunman nudged Caesar playfully with his elbow.
"Let's make it worth our time, huh?" he said, grinning from ear to ear. Then, like many of the other armed men and women surrounding the outer center of the village, he charged into the fray, sending bolts of blue streaking towards the blurs of shadows, joined by the red, green, purple, and gold of other gunmen, hunting farmers, and the village's own former military riflemen. Despite all the zigzagging in part of the creature, the gunman did not miss his mark. All the monsters struck down were reduced to black vapors and disappeared.
Over the noise of battle, one roared: "DO NOT LET THEM PASS! WE WILL NOT LET THEM RUIN THE RITUAL!"
The commanding voice of the elderly chief's own top pupil whom Caesar had the honor of meeting for the first time just this very morning snapped Caesar out of his trance just as one of the large beasts zipped past him. Caesar could not catch up to it, but thought of an idea and threw his sword like a javelin. His aim was true and the blade pierced through the heart of the beast. It was a surprise, even to him, that he managed to hit his mark.
Behind Caesar, another of the products of dark magic was about to bite of his head, but vaporized thanks to the gunman's marksmanship. The gunman scowled when Caesar, who was relishing in his first monster kill, did not take notice as he picked up his sword and then turned around. Caesar cocked his head to the side in confusion when the gunman shook his head in disappointment.
Letting himself get distracted yet again (seriously, what kind of hero is he?), Caesar suddenly found himself pinned down by another of the beasts. His sword had disappeared and he was without any other arms to defend himself with. If he took a look around, Caesar would find that the village's defenses were being pushed back. Even the gunman was starting to sweat more than he did during their bouts of training. The number of shadow beasts was too great.
The beast let out a horrendous roar and reached to rip Caesar's throat with its teeth.Death was coming Caesar's way and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
Then Caesar's sword impaled the creature's brain and it vaporized.
"Honestly, this magic sword is a waste on you!" Gwendolyn snapped, glaring at the shamed boy who hung his head.
She gave the sword back to the boy before pulling out a sword of her own, one made entirely of emerald green metal and sprang into the fray. Switching from one-hand to two-hand, then back to one-hand when she deemed appropriate, Gwendolyn slayed beast after beast, after beast. All her strikes were precise that either decapitated the beasts, or struck at their hearts. This was skill honed from centuries of participating in warfare. And with her having joined the battle, the number of beasts made a steep decline.
Caesar was amazed by the witch's skill which had been honed for a thousand years. Not wanting to be left out, Caesar ran after the witch and then fought at her side. He cut at the monsters, managing to slay at least three more of the beasts while wounding the rest that were in his way. The wounded healed quickly enough, but they were soon cut down.
Seeing the Immortal Witch so victorious in battle renewed the vigor of the surrounding warriors and they pushed back against the monsters with absolute determination to put a stop to the monsters' rampage once and for all. Among them was the gunman, ignoring his bleeding arm and his exhaustion, and firing his bolt shooters left and right despite the depletion of his stamina. Others who were wounded (one even lost an arm) also rose up to join their brethren in this final confrontation. Now it was the beasts' turn to be pushed back, and pushed back they were. When it was finally over, the beasts were already almost pass the border of the village, unable to counter against the village's heroes and warriors.
There was a jingle of bells and a blinding pillar of light shot toward the heavens from the center of the village. Caesar was dazzled by the brilliance of the pillar.
"Alexandra's doing that?' he said incredulously. He had seen Alexandra practice her magic before and thought that, compared to other magicians he knew, Alexandra was pretty average.
Gwendolyn cupped her hand over her eyes smiling with more pride than she had ever had before. That's my girl, she thought.
The pillar pulsed like heart beats, sending gentle shockwaves spreading throughout the entire village and beyond. These shockwaves did not hurt, and felt as warm as the bed blankets Caesar's mother handmade. Suddenly the bruises Caesar received from his tussles disappeared along with the aches and pains of battle. When the silver shockwaves passed through the beasts, the products of dark magic evaporated, as if they never existed.
The fighters all stopped, looked to the pillar, and then cheered. They all whooped with celebration. Finally, the days of their curse had ended.
- Quest For The Witch Chapter Five
Alexandra, Caesar and Gwendolyn meet with the chief of the village and discuss a ritual that could free the village of its curse. Gwendolyn commits Alexandra to the task. But sacrifice is required.
- Quest For The Witch Chapter Seven
It is time for Alexandra to perform the ritual. As she dances, monsters rise from the shadows to stop her. Will she succeed where another had failed? Or will she join her predecessor in doom?